HOTR: 500 “destinations” for Boom goes bust

June 4, 2021, © Leeham News: “Overture can connect more than 500 destinations.”

That’s what United Airlines said in its press release this week about its “commercial agreement” with Boom Supersonic. UAL “ordered” 15 Overture airplanes with an option for 35 more.

“More than 500 destinations” leaves a lot of room for interpretation. LNA understands this to mean 500 cities. If UAL and Boom meant “city pairs,” then this commonly used term should have been used.

The common dictionary definition is “the place where someone is going or where something is being sent or taken.”

Examples used in the definition are, “The Virgin Islands are a popular tourist destination,” or a “holiday destination.” More on point, one example used is quite common in airline lingo: the term “final destination.”

So, this lends to the interpretation “500 destinations” means 500 “cities.”

Well.

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Bjorn’s Corner: The challenges of airliner development. Part 6. Adding seats.

By Bjorn Fehrm, Henry Tam, and Andrew Telesca.

June 04, 2021, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we examined operating and product certification rules related to 9-seater air taxis and commuters. We took the example of the new Tecnam P2012 Traveller to study the certification rules for a 9-seater. Now we upsize the aircraft to understand the pros and cons of adding extra seats.

The Viking Twin Otter, the only in-production 19-seater. Source: Viking Air

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Boeing, Alaska team for next round of ecoDemonstrator research

By Scott Hamilton

June 3, 2021, © Leeham News: Boeing and Alaska Airlines today outlined a five month ecoDemonstrator program in a series of tests designed to “green up” commercial aviation.

Boeing partnered with airlines and suppliers beginning in 2012. Alaska is the eighth airline to participate. A Boeing 737-9 will be the current platform.

Boeing will flight test 20 technologies and ideas with Alaska beginning June 29 and ending Dec. 2.

Not all ideas fall strictly within “new technologies.” Some are weight-reduction initiatives that aggregate to lower airplane weight, which in turn reduces fuel burn. This in turn reduces carbon emissions.

But other ideas directly go to environmental efforts addressing noise, emissions and now COVID infectious worries.

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Widebody availability set to surge; could new entrants take advantage?

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By Judson Rollins

Introduction 

June 3, 2021, © Leeham News: Lessors are expected to write down the value of their widebodies as the long-haul travel slump appears set to extend well beyond this year, LNA reported last week.

A tidal wave of excess widebodies has reduced ownership costs to historic lows. Prices will only go lower as lessors finally initiate distressed-asset sales, and lease rates will continue to fall as used widebody inventory grows.

A confluence of factors, topped by the availability of lower-cost used widebodies, could increase the cost advantage of low-cost carriers over legacy competitors – at the same time reduced business travel and lower yields reduce the gap between legacy and LCC unit revenue.

Summary
  • Widebody availability is set to increase steadily throughout the decade.
  • What airplanes are likely to be most attractive?
  • Sustainably lower costs could enable low-cost carriers to overcome a shrunken “revenue gap.”

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Mitsubishi’s MHIRJ expanding MRO floor space by 100,000 sf

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By Scott Hamilton

Part 2 of 2. Part 1 appeared here.

Introduction

June 1, 2021, © Leeham News: It’s been one year today since Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) closed the acquisition of Bombardier’s CRJ program and global aftermarket support system.

In that year, MHI “suspended” development of the M90/M100 SpaceJet regional airliner, reduced funding by 99% and all but shuttered its business. The entire airline and aerospace supply chain industry believes MHI won’t restart the program.

But the Bombardier aftermarket business, renamed MHIRJ Aviation Group, appears to be thriving. MHIRJ expanded, opening a consulting business.

MHI also invested $20m in the expansion of its West Virginia and Arizona CRJ MRO lines. The company celebrates the expansions next month.

A small amount to be sure, but it nevertheless reversed the lack of monies by the nearly bankrupt Bombardier.

“We have the biggest regional MRO network in the world out of Bridgeport, West Virginia, and Tucson, Arizona,” said Ismail Mokabel, Senior Vice President, Head of Aftermarket. At both sites, MHIRJ can run about 30 simultaneous aircraft or equal lines of maintenance at any given time, he said.

MHIRJ is adding another 100,000 square feet of space, expanding two new hangars that will be up and running within the next 12 to 18 months. The contract was signed May 27.

Summary
  • Regional airline aftermarket MRO business fell 35%-40% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • MHIRJ profit-and-loss already is at pre-COVID level.
  • The company will develop performance improvement packages for CRJ.
  • May expand MRO services to other aircraft types after 2023.

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Mitsubishi grows ex-Bombardier business even as SpaceJet rests in limbo

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By Scott Hamilton

Part 1 of 2 Parts

Introduction

May 31, 2021, © Leeham News: June 1 is the first anniversary of the acquired by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of the Bombardier CRJ program and global support network.

It was on the surface a bittersweet moment.

MHI and Bombardier announced the deal June 25, 2019.

MHI’s aircraft subsidiary, Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. (MITAC) was then going full steam ahead with the development of the M100 SpaceJet and certification of the M90 SpaceJet, previously known as the MRJ90.

But in March 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic exploded. By June, MHI put the SpaceJet program in “suspense.” All operations outside Japan were closed and hundreds of employees were laid off. Flight testing in Washington State was terminated. MITAC’s headquarters at Nagoya Airport was shuttered and funding was reduced by 99%. The future of the SpaceJet program is in doubt. MHI says only it will “reassess” during its current fiscal year ending next March 31.

But MHI continued with the CRJ acquisition. After the close, it was renamed MHIRJ.

During the ensuing year, MHIRJ continues to support the global CRJ fleet. It also launched a new advisory/consulting business that encompasses mainline jets, airlines and airports.

Summary
  • CRJ customers saw business as usual following the close.
  • Pivoting from SpaceJet to advisory-consulting work.
  • With SpaceJet in limbo, MHI grows acquisition business.

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Pontifications: The Wing of Tomorrow and Airbus’ future

May 31, 2021, © Leeham News: It’s not as if Boeing doesn’t have enough challenges right now.

By Scott Hamilton

Airbus seems ready to up the ante by re-winging the A320 series, according to an article last week by Bloomberg News.

The “Wing for Tomorrow,” as Airbus calls it, has been in the works for years. It’s a composite wing, designed for a new production process. The process will be quicker, more efficient and less costly than the cumbersome, expensive autoclave used today.

Public discussion about an enlarged A321 has been around for years. Variously called the A321 Plus Plus or A322, the broad concept is a 12 seat stretch (Bloomberg suggests it could be 24 seats), more powerful engines and the new composite wing. Bloomberg wrote that the wing, with a wider span, could have folding wingtips.

This A322 would be a true Boeing 757 in terms of capacity. Range would be well into the “Middle of the Market” definition proffered by Boeing for the better part of a decade.

But what about the A320 and A319?

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Bjorn’s Corner: The challenges of airliner development. Part 5. Developing to Cert rules

By Bjorn Fehrm, Henry Tam, and Andrew Telesca

May 28, 2021, ©. Leeham News: After an overview of different certification rules and discussions about why there are different rule sets, we now exemplify the rules by looking at specific aircraft projects and how the certification rules affect the design.

We start this week with the idea to certify a 9-seat mini-airliner like the Tecnam P2012 Traveller. It’s a recent development with US-based Cape Air as the launch customer.

 

Figure 1. Passengers boarding the 9-seat Tecnam P2012. Source: Tecnam.

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Industry stands together on safety

By Scott Correa

Special to Leeham News

 May 27, 2021, © Leeham News: Forty-two years ago this week, I puked at work.

American Airlines flight 191 moments before crashing less than a mile after takeoff at Chicago O’Hare Airport. Source: Wikipedia.

On May 25, 1979, an American Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-10 crashed on take off from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Within minutes, it was known that the No. 1 engine separated from the airplane just after the airplane was committed.

The aircraft gained a few hundred feet before rolling over on its left wing, crashing into a trailer park. All 271 on board and two people on the ground were killed.

The Federal Aviation Administration immediately grounded all DC-10s in the US because of the engine separation. Regulators elsewhere in the world followed suit.

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Widebody write-downs are coming – how much will asset values be affected?

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By Judson Rollins

Introduction 

Air New Zealand 777-300ER stored at Victorville, CA (USA). Source: New Zealand Herald.

May 27, 2021, © Leeham News: As central banks pumped liquidity into the global economy over the past 15 months, aviation has attracted a steady stream of investor interest.

However, aircraft transactions have been few and far between apart from growth in sale-leasebacks. An expected wave of lessor consolidation has been limited to one major transaction, the AerCap/GECAS merger announced in March. Even this was likely driven by GECAS parent General Electric’s push to dismantle its finance business, GE Capital.

Fly Leasing, a lessor with just 84 aircraft, sold itself to private equity firm Carlyle Aviation Partners in March. These have been the only lessor mergers or acquisitions to date, despite wide speculation the COVID pandemic would spur many lessors to combine.

A lack of merger activity is likely because aircraft leasing is not a business with large economies of scale.

Widebody aircraft values have fallen 30%-40% since the start of 2020, according to the UK appraiser Ishka. Relatively few of these aircraft have been written down on lessor balance sheets, but more are expected to be so toward the end of this year.

Summary
  • Equity investors looking for high returns are finding disappointment so far.
  • Asset write-downs are unlikely to have much impact on lessor viability – but could open the door to distressed sales.
  • Could a glut of unused widebodies lead to a wave of new airlines?

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